God at work in Us

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Young entrepreneur balances profit, community and faith

Matthew Penner loves airports. Sometimes he rides his bicycle to the airport in Steinbach and simply sits next to the runway. “I would call it a sacred place for me to go and experience God’s closeness,” he says.

Penner, a pilot and a 29-year-old entrepreneur who founded his own marketing company called Three Six North, was recently among 20 young professionals honoured by the business-focused development organization Mennonite Economic Development Associates (MEDA).

Remade from the inside out

When Josh Wallace survived a serious car accident at age 10, his father said, “God saved your life in that accident, and he must have done so for a purpose.” Since then, he has tried to figure out what that purpose is.

Josh grew up near Bozeman, Mont., in a conservative Christian milieu. As a teenager, he tasted leadership in his youth group and in the Bible club at school. These experiences helped him overcome awkwardness and focus on the needs of others. He remembers thinking, “Instead of being fearful about what everyone else thinks, I’m going to take care of other people.”

Taking off the mask

Childhood is all about the endless possibilities, the dreams that will come true if you wish hard enough.

Erin Wiebe’s childhood was no different in those ways. She knew if she wished hard enough, the dream of her outside appearance matching the way she saw herself would become a reality. Every night, Erin says she wished she would wake up a girl.

In fact, Erin was born with a gender variance: she is transgender, identifying as female, opposed to the male sex assigned to her at birth.

A God bigger than this mess

As part of our occasional Faith Journeys series, we share Henry Paetkau’s experience with readers. As Mennonite Church Eastern Canada’s area church minister, he originally presented this story as a monologue of a Sunday morning encounter with a neighbour at this spring’s annual church gathering:

Hey neighbour! Beautiful Sunday morning!

Yup, off to church. You’ve seen me in my gardening clothes, and these aren’t them!

Remembering the man who was ‘Doc’

His name was David Schroeder, but those who knew him affectionately and respectfully referred to him as “Doc.”

Schroeder, who worked as professor of New Testament and philosophy at Canadian Mennonite Bible College (CMBC), one of the predecessor institutions of Canadian Mennonite University (CMU), died peacefully at his home in his 92nd year.

A theologian and churchman with a doctor of theology degree from the University of Hamburg, Germany, Schroeder taught at CMBC from 1959 until 1994.

Making space for God

In the words of David Martin, executive minister of Mennonite Church Eastern Canada, at the 2015 annual church gathering, “Since our habit is to normally talk about God in the abstract or to reflect on how my intellectual beliefs impact my values or actions, I have chosen to share with you more concretely how I have experienced the presence of God in my life.” We share his story as the first of an occasional series called “Faith Journeys.”

Bird therapy

When Ken Reddig was too depressed to get out of his chair, he sat at his window and watched birds. In winter, the nuthatches squabbled over dropped seeds. In summer, the hummingbirds jostled for a place at the feeder. “Summer and winter, there was constant activity that kept me entertained, but also inspired,” he says.

New director hopes to increase restorative justice

Heather Driedger is the new executive director of Parkland Restorative Justice, an agency supported by MC Sask. (Photo courtesy of Heather Driedger)

Parkland Restorative Justice has a new executive director. The agency, which is supported by Mennonite Church Saskatchewan (MC Sask), hired Heather Driedger to fill the position recently vacated by Ryan Siemens. Originally from Saskatoon, Driedger is a 2004 graduate of Rosthern Junior College. She earned a BA degree in peace and conflict transformation studies from Canadian Mennonite University.

The life of an MCC thrift shop manager

Karen Steckly manages the MCC New to You shop in Milverton, Ont. (Photo by Katie Steckly)

There’s never a dull moment at the thrift shop. Whether it’s a truckload full of donations five minutes before closing or a till that needs balancing, Mennonite Central Committee thrift shop managers are always on the go. But sometimes there are unexpected duties to attend to at the local thrift shop. Just last week, my mother who manages the Milverton, Ont., MCC New to You, experienced one of the best, most story-worthy ones yet.

Refined by fire

Looking bleak and lifeless today, the burned area surrounding Forest House will explode with life by next summer, says Ric Driediger, who owns the property. (Photo by Sarah Driediger)

Forest House survived the wildfires that destroyed the surrounding forest. Ric Driediger, who owns the property, ponders why his place was spared while others were not. (Photo by Sarah Driediger)

“I’m not very good at being helpless,” says Ric Driediger as he reflects on the impact Saskatchewan’s forest fires have had on his business and his life. Driediger and his wife, Theresa, own Churchill River Canoe Outfitters in Missinipe, Sask., 457 kilometres north of Saskatoon. This summer promised to be one of their best, with many bookings. But when wildfires threatened the community of La Ronge, 78 kilometres to the south, burning along the highway between La Ronge and Missinipe, the road was closed and Driediger’s customers couldn’t reach his place.

The luthier of La Riviere

Jeremy Hamm shows off a few of the guitars he has made in his shop. (Photo by J. Neufeld)

Pop psychology writer Malcolm Gladwell popularized the 10,000-hour rule—the notion that it takes 10,000 hours of practice to master a craft. Jeremy Hamm will tell you a different story. He figures it took him at least 25,000 hours of painstaking trial and error before he got good at making guitars.

Riding for affordable housing

MennoHomes photo

Ken and Debbie Martin are ready to head out from Elmira (Ont.) Mennonite Church on a countryside tour as part of the MennoHomes fifth annual bike-a-thon for affordable housing on June 20. More than 100 adults and children participated by walking, cycling or riding, and raised $40,000 toward a three-storey apartment building to be built in Elmira. For more information go to www.mennohomes.com.

Ester Neufeldt leaves MCEC after 27 years

Ester Neufeldt, outgoing operations minister of MCEC, sits in her office at 50 Kent, Kitchener. This is the third office move she oversaw in her 27-and-a-half years of working for the area church. (Photo by Dave Rogalsky)


Ester Neufeldt has been around Mennonite Church Eastern Canada longer than MCEC has existed. The area church came into being on Feb. 1, 1988, but Neufeldt began her job on Jan. 25. Besides learning the ropes from the outgoing accountant for Mennonite Church of Ontario and Quebec, one of her first jobs was to close the books of MCOQ, the Western Ontario Mennonite Conference, the United Mennonite Conference of Ontario, and the Inter-Mennonite Conference of Ontario, and then open one new set for MCEC.

Jamie Arpin-Ricci a man of surprising contrasts

Jamie Arpin-Ricci

He pastors Little Flowers Community, a small Mennonite congregation in Winnipeg’s west end neighbourhood that chose to belong to the larger church body through Mennonite Church Manitoba/Mennonite Church Canada. He co-directs Youth With A Mission (YWAM) Urban Ministries Winnipeg. He’s also the director of Chiara House, a new intentional Christian community in Winnipeg, husband to Australian wife Kim and father to Ethiopian son Micah.

Alberta relief sale raises $172,000

Children and their parents remained engaged in the children’s auction time led by Darcy Krahn on Saturday afternoon at the Mennonite Central Committee Alberta relief sale in Didsbury.

Sebastian Loewen “runs off his rollkuchen” at the ‘GO’ booth at the MCC Relief sale in Didsbury.

Isabel Hillis has to pedal hard to blend her smoothie While Laurie Bennie of MCC provides encouragement.

Low oil prices in 2015 have not dampened the generosity of Alberta Mennonites. On June 5-6, 2015, the annual Mennonite Central Committee relief sale was held in Didsbury, and as of June 8, over $172,000 had been received with donations still trickling in. The last Didsbury sale, held in 2012, raised $170,000.

Henry Poettcker remembered as a servant leader

Henry Poettcker, who served as president of Canadian Mennonite Bible College (CMBC), one of Canadian Mennonite University’s (CMU) predecessor institutions, died on Sunday, May 24, following a stroke. He was 90 years old. A scholar with a PhD from Princeton, Poettcker joined the faculty of CMBC in 1954 and became its president five years later at the age of 34. He held that office for 19 years.

A generous legacy

Isaac and Mary Andres are pictured in 1994, the year they celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary. (Photo courtesy of the Andres family)

The late Isaac Andres and his wife Mary are sharing their passionate faith and generosity in a legacy that continues to inspire and nurture new generations of Mennonites.

As a young man, Isaac could afford to attend Bible school for only one year due to a lack of funds, but he longed to ensure that others who wanted to study the Bible had the means to do so. As a result, in 1988 the couple established the Andres Bible School Bursary Foundation, Inc.

Pianist dedicated her hands to God

Lydia Derksen plays the piano in the sanctuary of Bergthal Mennonite Church near Didsbury, Alberta. She has played for the choir and congregation for 65 years. (Photo by Donita Wiebe-Neufeld)

“When I was 17 years old I dedicated my hands to the Lord. I was going to play his music in the church,” said Lydia Derksen, whose hands have been a blessing at Bergthal Mennonite for 65 years and counting. She plays the piano for the congregation, the choir and a variety of musical groups.

Derksen remembers being excited that her elementary school had a piano, but greatly disappointed when the teacher said, “at recess you go outside, you don’t play the piano!”

A giant has passed

Roy G. Snyder

Mennonite Economic Development Associates (MEDA) lost one of its most enduring and faithful supporters on Feb. 11 with the passing of Roy G. Snyder of Waterloo, Ont. He was 99.

He was a MEDA stalwart for more than half a century. He was one of the initial board members of MEDA Canada and a signatory on its charter. He oversaw programs in the Philippines and Bolivia, the latter country producing many successful MEDA ventures. The long family connection continues with Allan Sauder, his son-in-law who is MEDA’s president.

Ethical businesses make good money

One of the products available at Fresh From the Farm. (Photo by Will Braun)

Jacqui Schmucker at the alternative grocery store she and her husband Tim run in Toronto. (Photo by Will Braun)

If you want Tamworth heritage bacon or Golden Guernsey milk, Jacqui Schmucker can provide them. If you want maple syrup from a horse-and-buggy farm or honey from a black-bumper Mennonite farm, she’s got that too. If you want to know who grew your food, where and how, she can do that too, with an energetic smile to boot.

For most of two decades, Jacqui and her husband Tim have run Fresh From the Farm, an alternative grocery store that serves as a bridge between Toronto consumers and Amish and Mennonite farmers.

Seeking peace in Iraqi Kurdistan

Kathy Moorhead Thiessen, centre, with a group of workshop participants in Suleimani, Northern Iraq. (Photo courtesy of Kathy Moorhead Thiessen)

Refugee camps around the city of Suleimani in the Kurdish region of Northern Iraq have become pressure cookers of cultural and religious tension. Thousands of people displaced by Syria’s civil war and the violence of Islamic State (IS) are living shoulder to shoulder, unable to return to their homes.

“Many of them, their homes are trashed or there’s landmines and unexploded ordinances all over the place,” says Kathy Moorhead Thiessen, a Winnipeg woman who works with Christian Peacemaker Teams (CPT) in northern Iraq. “They’re stuck here, so how do you live together?”

Not in his wildest imagination

When as a young teenager Larry Kehler delivered coal in the Altona, Man., area for his father, his wildest imagination could not have taken him to where his life eventually led.

Born on Nov. 8, 1933, Kehler’s childhood was lived out in the Depression years and, although he knew he wanted to experience more of the world, it would have been impossible for him to foresee the twisting path that would eventually take him around the world.

Canadian Mennonite bids farewell to Evelyn Rempel Petkau

Evelyn Rempel Petkau

Evelyn Rempel Petkau is retiring after more than 18 years of reporting for Canadian Mennonite. She was hired as the provincial editor for Manitoba in 1997, just after Mennonite Reporter changed its name and format to become Canadian Mennonite. Since 1990, when she began writing as a freelancer for Mennonite Reporter, she has written more than 600 published articles.

Like mother, like daughter

Gerry Loewen manages an MCC thrift shop in Winnipeg. She is the daughter of Selma Loewen, one of the founders of the first MCC thrift shop, in Altona, Man. That shop grew into a network of more than 115 shops in Canada and the United States. (Photo by Meghan Mast)

Gerry Loewen runs her fingers along a row of books and moves toward a clothing rack packed with sweaters and cardigans. She is explaining what sort of donations come in to the thrift shop when a customer approaches her. He holds out a business card and tells his story. She listens patiently and, once he’s finished, asks if this is his first time visiting the shop. He answers yes.

“I hope you’ll come back again soon,” she tells him.


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